At Loches, the character of Anne of Brittany, Duchess and Queen, was imprinted in stone by the construction of an oratory, a true architectural jewel in the flamboyant gothic style.
The oratory of Anne of Brittany
In the royal castle of Loches, the character of Anne of Brittany, Duchess and Queen, was imprinted in stone by the construction of an oratory, the most distant room in the northern part of the monument. Built in the flamboyant gothic style between 1498 and 1500 during the reign of King Louis XII, the oratory is not strictly speaking a chapel because services were not held there. It was more like a place of prayer echoing the piety of the lady who ordered its construction.
Inspired by Jean de Bourdichon (1457–1520), this picture (a 20th century copy of the original in the Lanjuinais collection) depicts the Duchess and Queen in her maturity. As in many other portraits of the time, Anne wears a black velvet hood embroidered in gold, over a cap of pleated white lace.
Anne of Brittany first visited the royal castle of Loches shortly after her marriage to King Charles VIII at the château de Langeais (December 1491). Under his reign, work was started on a new main building, backing on to the original castle (14th century) in the northern part of the spur. On January 10 1499, the Duchess and Queen, accompanied by Louis XII, her second husband, made a solemn entry to Loches and spent four weeks there. She was particularly fond of the forest of Loches where she could take part in royal hunts. She returned to the royal castle in 1500 for a longer stay when the construction of her oratory, started in 1498, was completed. This engraving shows how it looked in the mid-19th century.
Built in the flamboyant gothic style between 1498 and 1500, during the reign of King Louis XII, the oratory is not strictly speaking a chapel because services were not held there. It was more like a place of prayer, echoing the piety of the lady who ordered its construction. The dais marks where the Queen would sit, facing the altar.
The ducal motto [Potius mori quam foedari (Death rather than dishonor)] is written out in full on the twin bay windows which light the oratory.
The oratory’s sculpted décor combines Christian symbolism with other more earthly references, such as the oak and the vine above the altar.
The vault of the oratory presents a subtle balance of Breton and French symbols: the three royal fleurs de lys end in ermine tails and are encircled by the cord, the personal emblem of Queen and Duchess Anne.
A fireplace adds comfort to the oratory and emphasizes the care taken with the decoration of its various components including, here, the knotted cord over the top of the fireplace.
This 19th century lithograph shows how the oratory looked before it was restored (2007-2008) and particularly the presence of a door and a flight of steps under the dais.
A 19th century copy (1848) of the book of hours ordered by Queen Anne of Brittany from the illuminator, Jean Bourdichon. The original is kept in the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of France.
Design: Cité Royale de Loches / Departmental Council of Indre-et-Loire